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Building Resilience, Part III

While self-discipline helps fight off temptation and understanding your purpose provides clarity and meaning to your actions, what happens when you face adversity, extreme pressure, or stressful situations? Staying out of the mud is one thing; getting out of the mud once you are in it is another. To pick ourselves up from the dismay that adversity causes, we must develop resiliency. By combining resiliency with self-discipline and purpose, we can complete the puzzle and confront any situation with the utmost confidence. What is Resilience? Resilience is the process of adapting to adversity, threats, or significant sources of stress, such as family strife, relationship trouble, poor health, or financial problems. In other words, being resilient means being able to bounce back from difficult experiences. However, there are misconceptions surrounding what it means to be resilient. One of those is that people either have it or they do not, when, in fact, resilience involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that are learned and developed. Another misconception is that resilience is an extraordinary quality that only a few of us possess, when, in all actuality, people display it every day. One example of resilience is found in the workforce. Nearly 60,000 employees are laid off each day in the U.S.; however, the unemployment rate is at its lowest since 1969. People are being laid off, but are not letting that deter them from finding new employment opportunities. Also, being resilient does not mean that a person does not experience difficulties. Often, the road to resilience is likely to involve a considerable amount of emotional distress. Hitting rock bottom and experiencing its associated emotions provide a differing perspective on what being resilient means. By battling back through the toughest of times that any one individual can face, it would make any minor setbacks feel like a walk in the park. Personal Experience My mother has always displayed that resilient characteristic throughout my life, but this was never more apparent than during my high school days. My mother left a long-tenured position to follow a colleague who was starting his own company and wanted my mother by his side. Two weeks after leaving her secure and stable position, her colleague passed away, which led to the business folding and leaving my mother without a job. Nevertheless, my mother persisted and was able to gain new employment within a couple of weeks, only to be laid off one month later. Was my mother deterred? No, as she was able to land another opportunity within the month, but once again, she was laid off just a handful of weeks later. So, in the three months after my mother left her safe and comfortable position, she dealt with an untimely death that left her without work and was laid off from two separate employers. Where she displayed her resilient nature was in her actions and behavior. Not once in any of this did she complain, nor ask the question, “Why me?” Not once did she let her only son believe that she was a failure. What she did do was continue to push forward to provide for her family. These would be tough moments for any one person to face at any point throughout their life, but to meet them all in one quarter of a year can have a damaging effect on one’s psyche. However, not my mother. Watching her throughout this time helped me understand what it truly means to be resilient. My mother showed me that when adversity strikes, you can choose to let it defeat you, or you can use it as fuel to keep you moving in the right direction. How to Build Resilience Becoming resilient likely involves considerable emotional distress. While experiencing extreme adverse situations that yield a high volume of discomfort and stress is a key contributor in developing resilience, I do not recommend you seek out these situations simply to develop an understanding of this concept. Therefore, whether you have experienced extreme cases of tragedy or not, there are five ways you can build resilience: keep things in perspective, choosing your response, accepting inevitable failures, setting goals, and practicing self-care. While dealing with a painful experience is difficult, it is vital to keep things in perspective. Focusing on the immediate impact can blow the event out of proportion; therefore, it is important to consider the experience in a broader context and view the long-term outlook of the event. Often when faced with tragedy, we automatically believe that the event is insurmountable. You cannot control when or where adversity will strike, but you can control how you respond as well as your interpretation of the event. For example, instead of focusing on what happened, focus on how it could have been worse. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, focus on what is needed to be done next to move forward. Change and adverse situations are a part of life. Accept the fact that not everything will go your way, that you will fail and make mistakes along the way, and that some goals may become unattainable after experiencing difficult times. Being able to accept these situations allows you to focus on other aspects. After acceptance, develop realistic goals and create an action plan to move toward those goals. Having goals increases motivation, confidence and provides a sense of direction. This way, you divert your attention away from the unachievable and toward what you can achieve to increase progression. Finally, you want to incorporate self-care into your daily routine. Paying attention to your own needs and feelings play a vital part in fighting through adverse situations. Whether it contains joyful activities, relaxation or exercising, taking care of yourself connects your body and mind so that you will be more equipped to handle situations that require resilience. Final Thoughts Resilience is a mindset, a characteristic that can be developed as an effective tool to handle adverse situations. Difficult times are a part of our lives and there is no way to predict when they will show up but working on skills to increase your ability to handle such situations can present you with a plan to face tragedy and adversity head on. There is no replacement for experiencing extreme forms of distress and fighting back from those moments, but the more you develop your mindset to handle those situations, the more prepared you will be when they come.

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